The Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander is a 1960s British light utility aircraft, mainline airliner and cargo aircraft designed and originally manufactured by Britten-Norman of the United Kingdom. The Islander is one of the best-selling commercial aircraft types produced in Europe. Although designed in the 1960s, over 750 are still in service with commercial operators around the world. The aircraft is also used by the Army and Police forces in the United Kingdom and is a popular light transport with over 30 military aviation operators around the world.
Design and development
Britten-Norman was started in 1953 to convert and operate agricultural aircraft and it also produced hovercraft (Cushioncraft, later sold to the British Hovercraft Corporation). Design of the Islander started in 1963 and the first prototype BN-2 first flew on 13 June 1965, with the second prototype on 20 August 1966. Both of these aircraft had engines that were less powerful than the production versions. The Islander is a high-wing cantilever monoplane with a rectangular fuselage and two-wing mounted engines. A conventional tail unit and a fixed tricycle landing gear, the fuselage will usually accommodate one pilot and up to nine passengers.
The first production Islander first flew on 24 April 1967 and was certified in August 1967. Production started at the Britten Norman factory at Bembridge, Isle of Wight but within a few years the company could not keep up with demand, a contract was placed with IRMA of Romania initial to produce aircraft from a kit of parts but the Romanian factory soon became the main source for production Islanders.A military version of the Islander was marketed as the Defender with underwing hard points and fitted out as a light troop transport and support aircraft and first flown in 1970.
The second prototype was developed into a stretched Super Islander but the program was stopped and the aircraft was used as a basis of the three-engined version, the Trislander. The company was in financial difficulties and by the end of 1970 went into receivership. In 1972 the company was bought by the Fairey Aviation Group and production of the Islander and Trislander was moved to their factory (Avions Fairey) in Gosselies in Belgium although the aircraft were flown to Bembridge for final customer preparation. The new company developed the Turbo Islander with Lycoming LTP101 turboprops but the engines were too powerful for the aircraft and the design evolved into the Turbine Islander (BN-2T) with Allison 250 turboprops. Fairey then suffered financial problems and called in the receiver and the Fairey Britten Norman company was sold to Pilatus of Switzerland.
An improved version, the BN-2A Islander, first flew in 1969. It incorporated aerodynamic and flight equipment improvements as well as changes to the baggage arrangements.
In 1978 a further improved version, the BN-2B Islander II was introduced. Improvements included increased carrying capacity and propeller modifications to reduce noise levels. Options included a long-nosed version for increased baggage capacity, raked wingtip auxiliary fuel tanks and twin Allison 250-B17C turboprop engines. When the latter are installed the aircraft is designated the BN-2T Turbine Islander.
A military conversion of the Islander, the Defender 4000, is capitalizing on the Islander's rugged structure for use in Third World countries. Recent purchases from police and military customers centres around use in surveillance and counter-terrorism operations. The Maritime Defender is another military version of the Islander, intended for search and rescue, coastal patrol and fishery protection.
A number of companies in addition to Britten-Norman have manufactured the Islander. IRMA from Romania has been building the aircraft since 1969, including the SONACA (Fairey), in Gosselies, Belgium. 35 have also been assembled in the Philippines.
A design project to develop an Islander with a larger capacity resulted in the BN-2A Mk III Trislander. This aircraft has a stretched fuselage, modified landing gear and a third (tail-mounted) engine. The prototype was constructed from the original second BN-2 prototype and flew on 11 September 1970.
Civilian operators/Former operators
Specifications (BN-2A Islander)
Data from The Observer's Book of Aircraft, 1976.
Published - July 2009
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